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Israel inks $3b deal for third F-35 squadron

“This sends a powerful message to our enemies across the region,” said Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

IAF F-35 stealth fighter aircraft fly in Israeli airspace. Credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit.
IAF F-35 stealth fighter aircraft fly in Israeli airspace. Credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit.

Israel’s Defense Ministry on Tuesday signed a $3 billion agreement with the United States to purchase 25 F-35 fighter jets, which once completed will bring Israel’s F-35 fleet from 50 to 75.

The deal, signed by Israel Defense Forces Brig. Gen. (ret.) Mishel Ben Baruch, includes maintenance and support for the aircraft and will be funded via U.S. Foreign Military Financing. The planes are set to begin arriving in Israel in 2028, with three to five planes being delivered annually, according to the Israeli Foreign Ministry. 

“The procurement of the third F-35 squadron reflects the strength of the strategic alliance between Israel and the United States,” said Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Tuesday. “This capability has a significant impact on arenas both near and far.”

He went on to say that, “At a time when some of our adversaries aim to undermine our ties with our greatest ally, we only further strengthen our alliance. This sends a powerful message to our enemies across the region.”

In May, Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich temporarily froze the purchase, part of a larger deal including the purchase of a new F-15 squadron, until the government agreed to establish a public committee to oversee the distribution of the defense budget.

The combined deals are worth 35 billion shekels ($9.5 billion).

Smotrich criticized security officials’ demands for “a blank check,” which he said had “massive consequences for the economy and the quality of life of Israeli citizens.”

In response, Gallant accused the finance minister of endangering Israel’s security.

“If we do not finalize the process of purchasing the squadrons from the United States within a month, it will delay the acquisition of the planes by three years and increase the price…by an additional billion shekels [$268 million],” said Gallant, according to Channel 12.

Smotrich’s office announced on May 29 that it had reached an agreement with Gallant to form the oversight committee, clearing the way for the deal.

Israel was the first country outside the United States to acquire the F-35, and according to the Israeli military also the first to use the stealth fighter in combat.

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